In the weeks leading up to NFL Nationals in Birmingham, Alabama, VBD will be interviewing previous champions of the prestigious tournament. Our first interview was with the 2011 champ, Josh Roberts, who debated for Northland Christian School in Houston, Texas.
How did you become involved in debate?
I originally became involved in high school debate because my dad decided to start the debate program at my high school, Northland Christian. He started the program when I was in 6th grade, but it was never really something that I understood until my freshman year when I attended the annual Northland debate camp the week before school started.
What is your favorite memory from debate?
I know it’s cliché to say you have “too many favorite memories to pick one” so I’ll instead say that I have too many memories and not enough space to tell you all of them. One of my fondest memories in debate was standing on stage with my dad after they had announced the decision of the final round at Nationals. When my dad competed in high school, the most important tournament to him was the National tournament, so to get to experience that moment with him was truly incredible. I also have many great memories that don’t have to do with debate necessarily, but were events that occurred at debate tournaments. For example, when our team was playing football at a local tournament in Amarillo, TX, (shout out to Momma Shofner, who is the reason my dad did debate, and is probably the only reason why I was fortunate enough to have the chance to participate in this activity) and Sam Duby was going to catch a pass and, albeit accidentally, ran over my teammate, Cole Oliver.
Who was your “debate hero” in high school?
My debate hero in high school was David Wolfish. Although I’m not sure he even knows who I am, I had always been told stories by my coach, Sam Duby, Neil Conrad, and Mr. Timmons, about how great of a debater he was, and how great of a bag carrier he was when he was a freshman/sophomore. The only time I ever remember being nervous in a debate round was my sophomore or junior year at the TOC when Wolfish judged me. It was one of the worst rounds I had ever debated because I was so nervous/excited to get the chance to debate in front of him.
What were your expectations going into Nationals? Did you think you would emerge as THE National Champion?
Going into the NFL tournament I had absolutely no expectations of winning. I was fortunate my freshman year to get to watch my cousin, Rachel Lanier, and teammate, Courtney Nunley, perform incredibly well at Nationals, so I knew that it was possible to do well at the tournament. However, after not even qualifying for Nationals my junior year, my expectations going into the tournament my senior year were certainly not very high. I wanted to do well because I was not satisfied with how I had performed at my last tournament, the TOC, and because I knew it would be the last tournament of my career, but I did not believe that I would have ever walked away the National champion.
What advice would you give to students competing in Birmingham this summer?
The best advice that I can give to someone competing this summer is to just have fun. Nationals is a LONG tournament, and you’re going to lose some rounds. However, you can’t let that get to your head. Take it one round at a time, recognize that just by qualifying for Nationals you’ve done what hundreds of thousands of other debaters didn’t do, and just give it your best effort. If you prepare adequately prior to the tournament, the only thing you truly have control over is how well you communicate with the judges in each round. Enjoy the experience, take advantage of the early end to the day and get some rest, and never lose hope because anything is possible at this tournament.
Many thanks to Josh Roberts for taking the time to answer a few questions for us!
– Jared Woods